When to Have Heart Valve Repair or Replacement Surgery

If the heart valve that has been severely damaged or diseased, the blood flow can be decreased throughout the body. Before valve stenosis, valve prolapse or valve regurgitation can create irreparable hard to the heart, it can be necessary to repair or replace the valve.

As pioneers in heart valve surgery — both traditional and minimally invasive surgery — our heart surgeons can offer surgical solutions that are not available at most hospitals. Heart valve problems that benefit from surgery include:

  • Congenital valve disorders
  • Leaky valves that don't close properly (regurgitation)
  • Infected valves
  • Narrowed valves that don't open correctly (stenosis)

Valve Repair vs Valve Replacement

Our cardiac surgeons hope be able to repair malfunctioning heart valves before opting for total heart valve replacement. Valve repair may involve sewing damaged valve flaps or strengthening the "ring" that holds the valve in place. However, if a valve repair is not the best option, UChicago Medicine cardiac surgeons will recommend heart valve replacement. We will completely replace faulty heart valves with artificial or biological valves taken from human or animal valve tissue.

Advancing Heart Valve Surgery for Better Results

We regularly take on challenging cases, such as patients who need more than one heart valve repair or replacement at a time, or "redo" operations to correct unsuccessful valve surgeries. Many of our patients are considered high risk, including people who have had several prior heart valve surgeries, those with co-existing medical conditions, elderly and overweight individuals and people who have been turned down for heart surgery at other hospitals. While we routinely care for high-risk patients, our team welcomes any patient with a heart valve problem that can benefit from surgery. 

Minimally Invasive Surgery for Heart Valves

Whenever possible, our surgeons use minimally invasive and robotic techniques when treating heart valve disease.In many cases, heart valve problems can be treated with the assistance of the da Vinci Surgical System, a sophisticated robotic device. Procedures performed with the da Vinci system are done through four to five fingertip-size ports on the side of the chest.

Only select hospitals offer robotic surgery for cardiac conditions. The director of our robotic and minimally invasive cardiac program, Husam H. Balkhy, MD, is a world-renowned expert in this highly advanced technique and has performed hundreds of robotic procedures with excellent outcomes. Currently, our team offers mitral and tricuspid valve repair using the surgical robot.

Benefits of Robotic Surgery 

Minimally invasive surgeries, including robot-assisted procedures, have many benefits, including the following:

  • Faster recovery and a quicker return to normal activities
  • Less time spent in the hospital
  • Small incisions that result in little to no scarring.
  • Quicker pain management, with many patients able to control pain after discharge with Tylenol or other over-the-counter pain medicines

Because the breastbone (sternum) remains intact, patients avoid the risk for infection and other complications associated with cutting it (sternotomy) that may occur with traditional open-chest procedures.

Request an Appointment

The information you provide will enable us to assist you as efficiently as possible. A representative will contact you within one to two business days to help you schedule an appointment.

You can also make an appointment with our providers by:

Scheduling a virtual video visit to see a provider from the comfort of your home

Requesting an online second opinion from our specialists

Filling out an online questionnaire (e-visit) to get a same-day diagnosis and treatment for common conditions.

To speak to someone directly, please call 1-888-824-0200. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.


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Structural Heart Disease